March 8, 2023 In the News

Women’s History Month and the Connection to Gun Violence

Since 1987, every March has welcomed Women’s History Month as a time of celebration, solidarity, and awareness. This year our dedication to women’s rights is more crucial than ever.

We cannot separate conversations surrounding gun violence from intimate partner violence. 1 in 4 women experiences severe intimate partner violence at some point in their life.

And when a gun is added to a domestic violence situation, the risk of homicide increases by 500%. Every month, an average of 70 women are fatally shot by an intimate partner.

While federal law prohibits domestic abusers from owning guns, there are clear blindspots in this legislation that unfortunately allow firearms to fall into many oppressors’ hands. This is commonly referred to as “the boyfriend loophole”, where abusers in the form of boyfriends or other casual intimate partners federally have little to no issue accessing guns. Over the years, individual states have taken steps to limit firearms access, but of the 31 states who prohibit convicted domestic abusers from having guns, just 21 of them have closed the boyfriend loophole. We are grateful Washington is one of them.

Women of color and trans women of color especially are disproportionately affected by gun-related hate crimes, domestic violence, or randomized targeting based on their identities. In 2019, the Center for American Progress produced a report: “Transforming the Culture of Power: An Examination of Gender Based Violence in The United States,” highlighting 5 key challenges around firearms and their relation to gender-based violence in the US, and out of the 5, 2 were specifically focused on racial and identity targeting. 

Gender-based violence committed by strangers and acquaintances typically targets women of color and is rooted in misogynistic and racist ideals that are influenced by online hate speech. When added in with easy access to firearms, it cultivates a recipe for tragedy and despair. We saw this in March 2021, when a gunman entered three spas in Atlanta and shot 8 people dead, 7 of whom were women, and 6 of whom were Asian women.

Transgender women experience this same level of vulnerability, often being the target of gun-related hate crimes. In 2021, for Black trans women and other trans-WOC, at least 45 trans or gender-nonconforming people were shot or killed in other violent ways. 74% of homicides concerning transgender people involved a gun between 2017 and 2019.

Our trans communities are at a greater risk of gun violence due to the discrimination they face in receiving housing, employment, and healthcare. Furthermore, in situations of domestic violence or violence against women in general, we must choose to believe instead of blame. 

Women, women of color, trans women, and anyone who identifies as a woman deserve the right to not only feel safe but be safe. 

As we celebrate and honor women’s accomplishments this month, it is also a time to bring awareness to the 4.5 million women who have reported their partner threatening them with a gun. In a country where women have historically suffered and been victimized time and time again, we cannot ignore how they are all too often subjected to the devastation of the gun violence epidemic as well. 

No movement against domestic violence is complete without a movement against gun violence. 

— Kimberly Ugaddan is a Legislative Fellow and Asma Masude is an intern at the Alliance.